1812 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Bp. Richard Hurd

Alexander Chalmers, in General Biographical Dictionary (1812-17) 18:338-47.



RICHARD HURD, an eminent and accomplished prelate, was born at Congreve, in the parish of Penkrich, in Staffordshire, Jan. 13, 1720. He was the second of three children, all sons, of John and Hannah Hurd, whom he describes as "plain, honest, and good people, farmers, but of a turn of mind that might have honoured any rank and any education;" and they appear to have been solicitous to give this son the best and most liberal education. They rented a considerable farm at Congreve, but soon after removed to a larger at Penford, about half-way between Brewood and Wolverhampton in the same county. There being a good grammar-school at Brewood, Mr. Hurd was educated there under the rev. Mr. Hilman, and upon his death under his successor the rev. Mr. Budworth, whose memory our author affectionately honoured in a dedication, in 1757, to sir Edward Littleton, who had also been educated at Brewood school. He continued under this master's care until 1733, when he was admitted of Emanuel college, Cambridge, but did not go to reside there till a year or two afterwards.

In this college he had the happiness of being encouraged by, and hearing the lectures of, that excellent tutor, Mr. Henry Hubbard, although he had been admitted under another person. He took the degree of B.A. in 1739, proceeded M.A. and was elected fellow in 1742. In June of that year he was ordained deacon in St. Paul's cathedral, London, by Dr. Joseph Butler, bishop of Bristol and dean of St. Paul's, on letters dimissory from Dr. Gooch, bishop of Norwich; and was ordained priest May 20, 1744, in the chapel of Gonvile and Caius college, Cambridge, by the same Dr. Gooch.

Mr. Hurd's first literary performance, as far as can be ascertained, was "Remarks on a late book entitled 'An Enquiry into the rejection of the Christian miracles by the Heathens, by William Weston, B. D.'" 1746. On the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle, in 1748, he contributed some verses to the university collection of 1749. In the same year he took the degree of B.D. and published his "Commentary on Horace's Ars Poetica," in the preface to which he took occasion to compliment Mr. Warburton in a manner which procured him the acquaintance of that author, who soon after returned the eulogium, in his edition of Pope's works, in which he speaks of Mr. Hurd's Commentary in terms of the highest approbation. Hence arose an intimacy which remained unbroken during the whole of their lives, and is supposed to have had a considerable effect on the opinions of Mr. Hurd, who was long considered as the first scholar in what has been called the Warburtonian school. His Commentary was reprinted in 1757, with the addition of two Dissertations, one on the Province of the Drama, the other on Poetical Imitation, and a letter to Mr. Mason, on the "Marks of Imitation." A fourth edition, corrected and enlarged, was published in 3 vols. 8vo. in 1765, with the addition of another Dissertation on the idea of universal Poetry; and the whole were again reprinted in 1776. It is needless to add that they fully established Mr. Hurd's character as an elegant, acute, and judicious critic.

In May 1750, by Warburton's recommendation to Dr. Sherlock, bishop of London, Mr. Hurd was appointed one of the Whitehall preachers. At this period the university of Cambridge was disturbed by internal divisions, occasioned by an exercise of discipline against some of its members, who had been wanting in respect to those who were entrusted with its authority. A punishment having been inflicted on some delinquents, they refused to submit to it, and appealed from the vice-chancellor's jurisdiction. The right of the university, and those to whom their power was delegated, becoming by this means the subject of debate, several pamphlets appeared, and among others who signalised themselves upon this occasion, Mr. Hurd was generally supposed to have written "The Academic, or, a disputation on the state of the university of Cambridge, and the propriety of the regulations made in it on the 11th day of May and the 26th day of June 1750, 8vo;" but this was, as we have already remarked, the production of Dr. Green: Mr. Hurd, however, wrote "The opinion of an eminent lawyer (the earl of Hardwicke) concerning the right of appeal from the vice-chancellor of Cambridge to the senate; supported by a short historical account of the jurisdiction of the university; in answer to a late pamphlet, intituled 'An Inquiry into the right of appeal from the vice-chancellor, &c.' By a fellow of a college," 1751, 8vo. This passed through three editions; and being answered, was defended in "A Letter to the Author of a Further Inquiry," 1752, 8vo. It is also preserved in the bishop's works.

In 1751, he published the "Commentary on the Epistle to Augustus;" and a new edition of both Comments, with a dedication to Mr. Warburton, in 1753. In 1752 and 1753, he published two occasional sermons, the one it the assizes at Norwich, on "The Mischiefs of Enthusiasm and Bigotry," and the other, for the charity schools at Cambridge, neither of which has been retained in his works. The friendship which had already taken place between Warburton and Mr. Hurd had from its commencement continued to increase by the aid of mutual good offices; and in 1755 an opportunity offered for the latter to shew the warmth of his attachment, which he did perhaps with too close an imitation of his friend's manner. Dr. Jortin having, in his "Dissertations," spoken of Warburton with less deference and submission than the claims of an overbearing and confident superiority seemed to demand, Mr. Hurd wrote a keen satire, entitled "The Delicacy of Friendship, a seventh dissertation; addressed to the author of the sixth," 1755, 8vo. It has been said, that upon reflection, he was so little satisfied with the warmth of zeal he had displayed on this occasion, that he took great pains to suppress this pamphlet. If so, it is difficult to account for the eagerness with which it was brought forward again in a new edition in 1788, by an eminent living scholar, in a volume entitled "Tracts by Warburton and a Warburtonian." It was this obtrusion, however, for which it would not be easy to assign the most liberal motives, that probably induced the author in his latter days, not only to acknowledge the tract, but to include it among those which he wished to form his collected works.

Although Mr. Hurd's reputation as a polite scholar and critic had been now fully established, his merit had not attracted the notice of the great. He still continued to reside at Cambridge in learned and unostentatious retirement, till, in Dec. 1756, he became, on the death of Dr. Arnald, entitled to the rectory of Thurcaston, as senior fellow of Emanuel college, and was instituted Feb. 16, 1757. At this place he accordingly entered into residence, and, perfectly satisfied with his situation, continued his studies, which were still principally employed on subjects of polite literature. It was in this year that he published "A Letter to Mr. Mason on the Marks of imitation," one of his most agreeable pieces of this class, which was afterwards added to the third edition of the "Epistles of Horace." This obtained for him the return of an elegy inscribed to him by the poet, in 1759, in which Mason terms him "the friend of his youth," and speaks of him as seated in "low Thurcaston's sequester'd bower, distant from promotion's view." The same year appeared Mr. Hurd's "Remarks on Hume's Essay on the Natural History of Religion." Warburton appears to have been so much concerned in this tract, that we find it republished by Hurd in the quarto edition of that prelate's works, and enumerated by him in his list of his own works. It appears to have given Hume some uneasiness, and he notices it in his account of his life with much acrimony.

In 1759, he published a volume of "Dialogues on sincerity, retirement, the golden age of Elizabeth, and the constitution of the English government," in 8vo, without his name, in this work he was thought to rank among those writers who, in party language, are called constitutional; but it is said that he made considerable alterations in the subsequent editions. This was followed by his very entertaining "Letters on Chivalry and Romance," which with his yet more useful "Dialogues on foreign Travel" were republished in 1765, with the author's name, and an excellent preface on the manner of writing dialogue, under the general title of "Dialogues moral and political." In the year preceding, he wrote another of those zealous tracts in vindication of Warburton, which, with the highest respect for Mr. Hurd's talents, we may be permitted to say, have added least to his fame, as a liberal and courteous polemic. This was entitled "A Letter to the Rev. Dr. Thomas Leland, in which his late 'Dissertation on the principles of Human Eloquence' is criticized, and the bishop of Gloucester's idea of the nature and character of an inspired language, as delivered in his lordship's Doctrine of Grace, is vindicated from all the objections of the learned author of the dissertation." This, with Mr. Hurd's other controversial tracts, is republished in vol. VIII. of the late authorized edition of his works, with the following lines, by way of advertisement, written not long before his death — "The controversial tracts, which make up this volume, were written and published by the author at different times, as opportunity invited, or occasion required. Some sharpness of style may be objected to them; in regard to which he apologizes for himself in the words of the poet:

—Me quoque pectoris
Tentavit in dulci juventa
Fervor—
—nunc ego mitibus
Mutare quaero tristia.

With this apology, we return to his well-earned promotions. In 1762, he had the sine-cure rectory of Folkton, near Bridlington, Yorkshire, given him by the lord chancellor (earl of Northington), on the recommendation of Mr. Allen of Prior-Park; and in 1765, on the recommendation of bishop Warburton and Mr. Charles Yorke, he was chosen preacher of Lincoln's-inn; and was collated to the archdeaconry of Gloucester, on the death of Dr. Geekie, by bishop Warburton, in August 1767. On Commencement Sunday, July 5, 1768, he was admitted D.D. at Cambridge; and on the same day was appointed to open the lecture founded by his friend bishop Warburton, for the illustration of the prophecies, in which he exhibited a model worthy of the imitation of his successors. His "Twelve Discourses" on that occasion, which had been delivered before the most polite and crowded audiences that ever frequented the chapel, were published in 1772, under the title of "An Introduction to the Study of the Prophecies concerning the Christian Church, and in particular concerning the Church of Papal Rome;" and raised his character as a divine, learned and ingenious, to an eminence almost equal to that which he possessed as a man of letters; but his notion of a double sense in prophecy, which be in general supposes, has not passed without animadversion. This volume produced a private letter to the author from Gibbon the historian, under a fictitious name, respecting the book of Daniel, which Dr. Hurd answered; and the editor of Gibbon's Miscellaneous Works having printed the answer, Dr. Hurd thought proper to include both in the edition of his works published since his death (in 1811). It was not, however, until the appearance of Gibbon's "Miscellaneous Works," that he discovered the real name of his correspondent.

In 1769, Dr. Hurd published "The Select Works of Mr. Abraham Cowley," with a preface and notes, in 2 vols. 8vo. This has not been thought the most judicious of Dr. Hurd's attempts, yet it was too fastidiously objected to, as interfering with the totality of Cowley's works. Dr. Hurd had no intention to sink the old editions; he only selected what he thought most valuable.

In 1775, by the recommendation of lord Mansfield, who had for some time cultivated his acquaintance, and had a high esteem for his talents, he was promoted to the bishopric of Lichfield and Coventry, and consecrated Feb. 12, of that year. On this occasion he received an elegant and affectionate letter of congratulation from the members of Emanuel college, to which he returned an equally elegant and respectful letter of thanks. In this year he edited a republication of bishop Jeremy Taylor's "Moral Demonstration of the Truth of the Christian Religion," 8vo; and early in 1776, published a volume of "Sermons preached at Lincoln's-inn," which was followed afterwards by a second and third. These added very greatly to the reputation he had derived from his sermons on prophecy, and are equally distinguished by elegant simplicity of style, perspicuity of method, and acuteness of elucidation. On June 5th of this year, he was appointed preceptor to their royal highnesses the prince of Wales, and prince Frederick, now duke of York. Very soon after entering into the episcopal office, appeared an excellent "Charge delivered to the clergy of the diocese of Lichfield and Coventry, at the bishop's primary visitation in 1775 and 1776," and soon after, his "Fast Sermon" for the "American rebellion," preached before the house of Lords. In 1781 he was elected a member of the royal society of Gottingen. It is somewhat remarkable that he did not belong to that of London.

On the death of the bishop of Winchester, Dr. Thomas, in May 1781, bishop Hurd received a gracious message from his majesty, with the offer of the see of Worcester (vacant by the promotion of bishop North to Winchester), and of the clerkship of the closet, in the room of Dr. Thomas, both which he accepted. On his arrival at Hartlebury castle, one of the episcopal seats of Worcester, he resolved to put the castle into complete order, and to build a library, which was much wanted. The library was accordingly finished in 1782, and furnished with a collection of books, the property of his lately deceased friend bishop Warburton, which he purchased. To these he afterwards made several considerable additions, and bequeathed the whole of his own collection. On the death of Dr. Cornwallis, archbishop of Canterbury, in 1783, bishop Hurd had the offer of the archbishopric from his majesty, with many gracious expressions, and was pressed to accept it: but he humbly begged leave to decline it, "as a charge not suited to his temper and talents, and much too heavy for him to sustain, especially in these times," alluding to the political distractions arising from a violent conflict between Mr. Pitt and Mr. Fox, and their respective supporters. The king was pleased not to take offence at this freedom, and then to enter with Dr. Hurd into some confidential conversation on the subject. "I took the liberty," said the good bishop to Mr. Nichols, when relating this affair, "of telling his majesty, that several much greater men than myself had been contented to die bishops of Worcester; and that I wished for no higher preferment."

In the end of February 1788, was published in 7 vols. 4to, a complete edition of the Works of bishop Warburton, prepared by our prelate, but who did not publish the "Life" until 1795. In March 1788, a fine gold medal was given to him by his majesty at the queen's house; the king's head on one side; the reverse was taken from the bishop's seal (a cross with the initials on a label, I. N. R. I. a glory above, and the motto below [Greek characters], which his majesty chanced to see and approved. The die was cut by Mr. Burch, and the medal designed for the annual prize-dissertation on theological subjects, in the university of Gottingen. In the summer of the same year he was honoured with a visit from their majesties at Hartlebury castle.

In 1795 the life of bishop Warburton appeared under the title of "A Discourse, by way of general preface to the quarto edition of bishop Warburton's works; containing some account of the life, writings, and character of the author." Of this work, which excited no common portion of curiosity, the style is peculiarly elegant and pure, but the whole is too uniform in panegyric not to render the author liable to the suspicion of long-confirmed prejudices. Even the admirers both of Warburton and Hurd would have been content with less effort to magnify the former at the expence of all his contemporaries; and conscious that imperfection is the lot of all, expected that age and reflection would have abated, if not wholly extinguished, the unscholarlike animosities of former times. But in this all were disappointed; and it was with regret they saw the worst characteristics of Warburton, his inveterate dislikes, his strong contempt, and sneering rancour, still employed to perpetuate his personal antipathies; and employed, too, against such men as Lowth and Secker. If these were the feelings of the friends who venerated Warburton, and who loved Hurd, others who never had much attachment to Warburton, or his school, found little difficulty in accumulating charges of gross partiality, and illiberal language, against his biographer. This much may be sufficient in noticing this life as the production of Dr. Hrrd. It will come hereafter to be more particularly noticed as regarding Warburton.

The remainder of bishop Hurd's life appears to have been spent in the discharge of his episcopal duties, as far as his increasing infirmities would permit; in studious retirement; and often in lamenting the loss of old and tried friends. So late as the first Sunday in February before his death, though then declining in health and strength, he was able to attend his parish church, and to receive the sacrament. Free from any painful or acute disorder, he gradually became weaker, but his faculties continued perfect. After a few days' confinement to his bed, he expired in his sleep, on Saturday morning, May 28, 1808, having completed four months beyond his eighty-eighth year. He was buried in Hartlebury church-yard, according to his own directions. — As a writer, Dr. Hurd's taste, learning, and genius, have been universally acknowledged, and although a full acquiescence has not been given in all his opinions, he must be allowed to be every where shrewd, ingenious, and original. Even in his sermons and charges while he is sound in the doctrines of the church, his arguments and elucidations have many features of novelty, and are conveyed in that simple, yet elegant style, which renders them easily intelligible to common capacities. Dr. Hurd's private character was in all respects amiable. With his friends and connexions he obtained the best eulogium, their constant and warm attachment; and with the world in general, a kind of veneration, which could neither be acquired nor preserved, but by the exercise of great virtues. One of his last employments was to draw up a series of the dates of his progress through life. It is to be lamented he did not fill up this sketch. Few men were more deeply acquainted with the literary history of his time, or could have furnished a more interesting narrative. Much of him, however, may be seen in his Life of Warburton, and perhaps more in the collection of Warburton's "Letters" to himself, which he ordered to be published after his death, for the benefit of the Worcester Infirmary. Of this only 250 copies were printed, to correspond with the 4to edition of Warburton's works, but it has since been reprinted in 8vo.

Dr. Hurd was early an admirer of Addison, and although afterwards seduced into the love of a style more flighty and energetic, maturer judgment led him back to the favourite of his youth. "His taste is so pure," Dr. Hurd says in a letter to Mason, "and his Virgilian prose (as Dr. Young styles it) so exquisite, that I have but now found out, at the close of a critical life, the full value of his writings." This letter is dated 1770; and the author, whose life was then far from its close, employed his leisure hours in preparing an edition of Addison's works, which he left quite ready for the press. It was published accordingly in six handsome volumes, 8vo, with philological notes. These are accounted for in a very short address prefixed in these words: "Mr. Addison is generally allowed to be the most correct and elegant of all our writers; yet some inaccuracies of style have escaped him, which it is the chief design of the following notes to point out. A work of this sort, well executed, would be of use to foreigners who study our language; and even to such of our countrymen as wish to write it in perfect purity." This is followed by an elegant Latin inscription to Addison, written in 1805, by which we learn that he intended this edition as a monument to Addison — "Hoc monumentum sacrum esto." In the same year, 1810, a new edition of the works of bishop Warburton appeared, according to Dr. Hurd's directions; and, for the first time, an edition of his own works, in 8 vols. 8vo, consisting of his critical works, moral and political dialogues, his sermons, and controversial tracts.